A self-portrait represents an individual and their identity, yet often times, identification is limited to labels that are the most apparent or visible. My portrait identifies myself through subtlety and intimacy instead, specifically through focusing on a love language—information that is usually accessed only with time. Not only is my top language depicted, but I also expand our notion of love languages by highlighting how the same love language can be expressed through multiple ways. For me, physical touch can mean human touch, handmade food, touching water, and having my hair brushed amongst other forms.
I also wanted to reflect upon my behavioral patterns through the frequency with which each love form is portrayed. How often do I resort to some forms of love and comfort rather than others? How accessible are some forms compared to others? I also asked myself how each expression of love makes me feel, as differentiated by the background colors, and acknowledged that different circumstances necessitate different forms of love. By underlying the piece with deformed self-portraits, I recognize and allow space for the states of turbulence that especially lead me to seek forms of care. The piece underlines multiplicity in selves, love, and behavior within a large-scale pattern.
I began the project with a traditional self-portrait of myself. As I continued to think about the ways that I love myself, I realized that fantasy and allowing myself to imagine beyond reality is a major way that I allow myself to grow and have joy. Therefore, I decided to allow myself to have green hair and purple skin, which are not necessarily realistic, but brought me so much happiness in being able to see myself depicted so.
For my initial drafts, I wanted to show that behavioral patterns do not necessarily have to be perfectly consistent, that there is no exact formula. I chose to connect the different forms of love together, but with some forms still appearing more frequently than others. I also layered in the deformed self portraits between. However, I felt that the layering between expressions of love and deformed selves were too even and did not reflect the ways in which the forms of self love were simultaneously in reaction to and also a daily practice independent of challenging moments. I wanted to emphasize upon the expressions of love more, so I created the following draft after thinking of a “ratio” of how often I take care of myself in each way versus how often I struggle in a week. The sporadic interruption of the dominant pattern also highlights the way that mental health can unexpectedly interfere with regular patterns and life.
Although I do think the commentary on mental health’s sporadic nature is important and more evident in my second draft, I felt that the second draft visually and conceptually homogenized the different expressions of love too much. Since the main image of myself remains the same, the different poses and objects felt like too small of a difference and hard to notice. The repetition and use of rows also made it feel easy to glaze over the piece while the use of background colors, especially the bright yellow that advances rather than recedes, felt distracting. I considered “zooming in” to the piece for there to be less to take in and for the differences to be more obvious.
After multiple drafts, I feel strongest about my final self-portrait. It is the most visually engaging version. The colors balance better and signify and invoke more emotional meaning. The differently sized squares still present the concept of frequency and behavioral patterns while allowing the different forms to stand out on their own and be in relation to each other, as well as a cleaner look. The use of opacity with the deformed portraits in the background allow the expressions of love to be highlighted, and the placement of the squares in the foreground restrict the amount of the background shown and ultimately do make them appear more infrequent.